A rotten waste of food

A rotten waste of food

One third of food globally is binned without being eaten. Photographer Klaus Pichler wants to change that.

When acclaimed Austrian photographer Klaus Pichler came across a food survey by the United Nations (UN) four years ago, he was appalled.

One third of food in the world will go to waste before it's consumed, claimed the report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, an arm of the UN.

Pichler felt sick to his stomach after reading the figures.

"I was shocked, and almost immediately decided to create a photo series on this issue," he recalls.

That photo series is called One Third. It sees striking still shots of rotten food contrasted with a pitch-black background, and sends out a clear message: do not waste food.

"The idea behind this series was to picture food products at different stages of decay to highlight the issue of food waste," he says.

The series, commissioned by the UN, is currently on display at the K11 Art Mall. The exhibition is part of the reFOODlution campaign, jointly organised by K11 and Go.Asia, a local charity which promotes volunteering.

But Pichler wants people to see beyond the images. People, he says, should think about where their food comes from and appreciate how valuable it is. Although all the food he photographed ended up rotting and being thrown away, he says it's important to pay attention to their origins, and appreciate how valuable they are.

Pichler did a brief investigation into the food he shot and then put a tiny bio next to each photo to explain the item's backstory.

"The products used for this [shoot] were once tasty items of food, for sale in supermarkets after being transported there from various parts of the world," he told Young Post. "My aim is to link the issue of global food waste and food loss with the international food production and transportation situation."

A master of the craft now, Pichler never thought about becoming a photographer when he was growing up. He describes himself as a shy teenager with long hair, and a penchant for death metal music. Even at university, he wanted to be a landscape architect.

The turning point came when he bought his first-ever camera - a Minolta X-300 - for a university project, when he was 20. He found joy in photography, he says.

"After my degree in 2005, I decided to quit my profession and follow my passion by becoming a photographer," says Pichler.

He has since completed many outstanding projects, including Just the Two, a series about the innate human desire to become someone else, and Skeletons in the Closet, which goes behind the scenes of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna.

He says the most enjoyable thing about being a photographer is travelling to unusual places that are normally restricted to ordinary individuals.

The long list of shooting locations he's experienced includes prisons, mental hospitals, sewage plants and aeroplanes.

"As a photographer, no day is like another, and that's great," he says. Pichler also finds it exciting that he can use his profession to help raise public awareness of pressing issues, and stir up discussions.

His food-themed album will surely spark a debate in Hong Kong.

Does he have any advice for Hongkongers wanting to make a change?

"Rethink your consuming habits and switch to organic food," he urges. "Don't waste food - it's a luxury!"

Head to yp.scmp.com to see more of Pichler's photos. The exhibition runs until March 30.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
A rotten waste of food


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